But with Trump evenly splitting four states with a resurgent Ted Cruz and Rubio's failure to finish higher than third in any of the Super Saturday contests, the spin cycle has been thrown into full effect.
Faced with underwhelming results and dispiriting delegate counts, Trump and the Rubio team employed some timeworn political tactics in an effort to massage public perceptions.
At his press conference in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump sought to dash any suggestion that Cruz, who won the Maine caucuses with nearly 50% of the vote, had overachieved.
After all, the billionaire joked, "He should do well in Maine because it's very close to Canada, let's face it."
Trump's reference to Cruz's provenance won a laugh from supporters, even as the heavy defeat in Maine -- despite an endorsement from Republican Gov. Paul LePage -- had to sting.
But Rubio, who Trump called on to leave the race during his remarks in Florida, had a much worse night.
In a Saturday evening interview on Fox News, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant assessed Cruz's path forward
with some skepticism.
"Ted Cruz has shown that he can win his home state and neighboring state, Oklahoma, and then small rural caucuses, like Iowa and Alaska, and now Kansas," Conant said.
Rubio, it went unsaid, has won only the Minnesota caucuses.
"Unfortunately, there are only two states left that have caucuses, Utah and Hawaii," Conant continued. "After that it is all primaries. Marco has done well in primaries so far. We beat Ted Cruz in Virginia. We beat Ted Cruz in South Carolina. We beat Ted Cruz in Georgia, a state that Ted Cruz originally thought he might actually win."
All of that is true. Also true: though Rubio outdid Cruz in those states, he did not win a single one of them outright.
Conant did point to one potential saving grace: Rubio's home state of Florida and its upcoming March 15, winner-take-all contest.
"And after we win the Florida primary," he said, "the map, the momentum and the money is going to be on our side."
Pressed by the interviewer on whether Rubio would drop out if he came up short in the Sunshine State, Conant demurred.
"We're going to win Florida," he said. "Marco said he'll go to all 50 states to stop Donald Trump. Donald Trump cannot be the nominee."